I had the best weekend. Now I’m sitting on the couch listening to the wind in the leaves outside on this stormy evening, woke up a couple of hours ago from a 3.5 hour nap and ate a big bowl of pasta. Watched a West Wing episode in which (spoiler alert) Matt Santos won the California primary, now I’m listening to Lou Reed’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side.
Started off with my beloved restorative yoga class which is geniusly timed at 6:30pm on Fridays and helps me let go of the work week and melt into a puddle (according to my teacher V, one class can make up for four hours of sleep). Dear friend C stopped by with amazing treats from Clement Street and we drank tea and caught up on the craziness of life–love it when friends stop by (please do).
On Saturday, I got up early and baked, picked up my laundry, and headed to prenatal yoga. It was only my second time attending and the teacher Jane knows my name and calls out adjustments to protect my lower back (which has not been doing great–I’m going to try swimming). I learn so much from the intros and what women at 26 weeks and 34 weeks and 19 weeks report is going on with their bodies, and the energy in the room is intense, pregnant mamas and dozens of gestating babies. We picture the babies, we connect with them. Namaste, the lights within me bow to the lights within you.
My new friend J is so sweet, it’s so instantly bonding to share the timing of our pregnancies, and I’m not just saying it because she started reading my blog! She brought her friend N, also on a similar schedule, also working with Em as her midwife, and we trekked together afterward to a potluck lunch of the SF Homebirth Collective.
We walked in, and there’s our yoga teacher Jane, midwife Bee, midwife Em, and it’s like I know everyone and am already showing up with two friends. All this has happened just over the last 2-3 weeks–I’m in a new club. After catching up with those three, we predictably camped out by the buffet and grazed. N tells me that Em will start having me keep a food journal so I am consciously enjoying all the bad stuff I’m craving (mostly lots of sugar, carbs, and dairy) while no one is monitoring me. (By the way, when I said Em strives for smaller babies I meant just not overly big babies, of which there seems to be a growing number.)
After being so strongly identified as a Single Mom by Choice and attending SMC meetings in SF, it felt really strange to have men around. These were doting dads, sensitive guys, the kind my sister would call “lesbros.” A whole different dynamic and sweet how the dads factored into the birth stories–the spiritual connection, the way the dad never really knows what’s going on until afterward but is in the birth tub doing his best to help. A different vibe, not alienating, just different, like oh yeah–men. I am part of these two niche groups–SMCs and homebirthers–maybe at some point I’ll meet someone who is part of both and meanwhile am just grateful for what I have in common with both communities.
We heard four different birth stories, each around 10-15 minutes each, each totally unique and beautiful and dramatic, each moving. MAN you just don’t know how it will go until it’s happening. All the babies were there and doing great and the moms were teary and grateful. Their midwives smiled listening and filled in details when asked. One woman was in labor for three days, one had her water break at 34 weeks and had to be induced in the hospital, one knew she’d have a big baby and had choreographed and memorized the maneuvers for shoulder distocia–and then it actually happened and they did the dance as planned and got the 9.5-lb baby out in 1.5 minutes.
By the end of the lunch, I think J and N and I were saucer-eyed after hearing so much about pregnancy and then so much about birth and also seeing the babies and the kids and even an 11-year-old boy running around. We needed naps. But I was off to the next thing.
First, though, J took my belly photo because my sister is out of town. I couldn’t crop my head without cutting out Sutro Tower, so fortunately a little cloud blew by and obscured my face as I strive to maintain online anonymity!
10/26/13, Twin Peaks:
If I had any photoshop skills I was going to make that a Halloween mask, but I do not. I did want to keep my happy smile.
Next, feeling very sleepy, I drove across the Bay Bridge to Oakland to see Thich Nhat Hanh. He is an 87-year-old Buddhist teacher from Vietnam who looks maybe 63 and has had an extremely long and influential career (e.g. he convinced MLK Jr. to come out against the Vietnam War)–he has over 800 monastics in Southern California and France, many of whom were on stage behind him. TNH (or Thay (pronounced Tie) which means Teacher in Vietnamese) is a diminutive, handsome man with a twinkle in his eye. He has a very soft voice which matches his humble demeanor and a Vietnamese accent that reminded me affectionately of Dr. Tran. Despite his quiet voice, his words were so powerful and poignant. At one point, I started crying and had to hold my breath to keep from inappropriately sobbing in the theater. It’s all OK. It’s all going to be OK. Some highlights:
- Our mother, our father, and all our ancestors all live within every cell of our bodies. Even after your grandmother is gone, you can apologize to her for something you said that was unkind. You can let her know you’re sorry and you won’t say something unkind like that to anyone else. And you can see your grandmother smiling to you, forgiving you. In this way, you can transform the past.
- TNH gestured to the sunflowers beside him on the stage and said that they were evidence of the kingdom of God, that the kingdom of God is available to us every moment of every day if we are mindful. What is the sunflower made of? Non-sunflower elements: the sunshine, the rain, the minerals in the soil. What are you made of? Non-you elements: your ancestors, your experiences, your community. And what is happiness made of? Non-happiness elements: and this includes suffering. You cannot know happiness until you know suffering.
- And this is where I lost it, because it feels like all the imperfections and frustrations and challenges are part of the road to happiness–we’re all right on track. He said that experiencing suffering makes us more understanding and compassionate to others, and when we share our suffering it can ease the suffering of others. This is when I thought of my blog. It seemed to bring so much meaning to what I’m trying to do here.
- TNH said that when we send our children to places where they are too sheltered from suffering, they won’t learn the elements of happiness. They won’t learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And this is the cause of so many conflicts and crimes…
- He told a story of a German woman who came to one of his retreats. She was married to a business man, very happy at first but then he was away and working all the time. She needed surgery in the hospital and he couldn’t even be there. He said that he was planning, in two years, to transition out of his job and spend more time with their family. Then their son was in the hospital and he couldn’t be there again. Soon after that, the husband was killed in a car accident. A reminder to not lose sight of what’s really important–money and fame and prestige are not what bring happiness. Love and understanding bring happiness. Time with family.
- He talked about how couples communicate and that you can’t love someone you don’t understand, “Darling, do I understand you well enough? If not, help me to understand you better.”
- Another theme was consumption–think about what you eat. Think about what you read, watch, listen to. If you watch scary shows, it might exacerbate your fears. He said there are different seeds–and we should practice “selective watering.” On the way home, I listened to jazz instead of junky pop.
I ended this epic day at the beautiful new house of M and P and their two kids under two–they made an amazing dinner of which I certainly ate more than my share. M can’t wait to give me all her mom and baby gear as soon as she’s done with it (last night it was post-pregnancy clothes and a boppy pillow), and I’m so grateful for her generosity and also those who heard my plea and offered me maternity clothes, thank you A and L and D!
Today I had no plans, a luxurious gift. Big week to come: my first midwife checkup is on Tuesday.
Grow, baby, grow!
Lots of love and Happy Halloween to you xo